5 Best Grass Types for Nashville

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Skyline of Nashville, TN

If you want to install a Music City lawn you can croon over, the UT Institute of Agriculture recommends five varieties for Nashville: 

  • Turf-type tall fescue
  • Fine fescues 
  • Bermudagrass
  • Centipedegrass 
  • Zoysiagrass

Here’s why these are the best grass types for your Nashville lawn:

  1. Tennessee is in the transition zone. This means warm and cool-season grasses may work well depending on where you live.
  2. Living in the transition zone means you have options: Cool-season grasses stay green throughout the winter, but warm-season grasses stay green throughout the summer. The choice is yours.

Let’s jump right in to find out more about each variety so you can make the best choice for your Nashville lawn.

Which grass is best for my Nashville lawn?

Tennessee is in what is called the transition zone. This means the winters are too cold for some warm-season grasses, but the summers are too hot for some cool-season grasses. Consider your lawn and the characteristics of each grass to make the best decision, and always feel free to contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more information.

Cool-season grasses

Cool-season grasses grow best in late summer through fall and throughout the spring. Most cool-season grasses will go dormant (brown) during the summer but green up again once high temperatures subside. According to local Cooperative Extension experts, cool-season grasses, especially fescues, are the most popular choice for homeowners in Nashville.

Many cool-season seed mixes are sold as a bluegrass/ryegrass/fescue mix or a 90:10 fescue: bluegrass mix to increase genetic diversity and take advantage of the strengths of each species.

1. Turf-type tall fescue

Turf-type tall fescue is the most popular lawn grass in Tennessee. WIth coarse leaves, high drought tolerance, and disease-resistant varieties to choose from, this grass is an attractive option for home lawns. If your turf gets lots of use, consider a variety with rhizomes to help the grass recover more quickly from wear and tear.

Since bluegrasses do not survive well on their own in Tennessee, a 90:10 tall fescue: Kentucky bluegrass mix is a popular choice for Middle Tennessee homeowners.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass   
  • Spreads by: Short rhizomes and tillers
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Maintenance needs: May require chemical or organic means of controlling common pests and diseases such as grubs and brown patch. Consider endophyte-enhanced seed for increased insect protection. This grass prefers fertile soil.
  • Recommended mowing height: 2-3.5 inches

2. Fine fescues

Fine fescues are a group of grasses with fine blades and good shade tolerance. These grasses are often mixed with at least one other cool-season grass to accommodate lawns with a mix of sun and shade. Several varieties tolerate infertile and acidic soils. This group of grasses is low-maintenance once established.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Most are bunching grasses; some have short rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Doesn’t tolerate hot temperatures well. Prefers an air temperature of 60-75 degrees. 
  • Recommended mowing height: 1.5-4 inches

Warm-season grasses

Warm-season grasses prefer the warmer temperatures of summer and will go dormant during the winter months. Unlike cool-season grasses, these grasses are planted as a single species (no seed or sod mixes).

Even though cool-season grasses predominate in the Nashville area, there may be a place for warm-season grasses in some Middle Tennessee lawns. Consider contacting your local Extension expert if you have questions specific to your lawn.

3. Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is a sun-loving lawn grass that spreads via stolons and rhizomes. This growth characteristic has a plus side and a downside. On a positive note, it can tolerate high amounts of traffic and recovers quickly from excess wear. On a cautionary note, be sure to edge your ornamental beds with concrete or metal edging down to about two inches because this grass has an aggressive tunneling habit.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low 
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Plan to fertilize at 0.5-1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. during the growing season. You’ll need to dethatch this grass regularly.
  • Recommended mowing height: 0.75-2 inches

4. Centipedegrass

Centipedegrass is known as a low-maintenance turf for homeowners. It requires very little nitrogen and its vertical growth is very slow. The plus side to this is that you mow less frequently, about every 7-10 days. The downside is that this grass does not handle heavy traffic, so it is not a good choice for families with kids or outdoor pets. 

Not all varieties are cold-hardy, so be sure to do your research to determine which, if any, of the commercially available varieties may suit your lawn.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: 1-2 lbs. nitrogen/1,000 sq. ft./year. To avoid “centipedegrass decline,” avoid mowing too short, don’t over-apply fertilizer, and water regularly. Centipedegrass prefers acidic soil.
  • Recommended mowing height: 1-1.5 inches

5. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass is a slow-growing, relatively cold-tolerant grass that is often found in transitional zone lawns. If you have kids or pets who like to spend time outside, this may be worth considering. An established zoysiagrass yard produces a dense stand of grass that stands up well to traffic, although it may recuperate slowly from injury. It is fairly drought-tolerant and has few weed issues due to its dense growth habit.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate, though it may thin in shady spots
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High, but can be slow to recuperate from heavy wear
  • Maintenance needs: Experts recommend establishing via sod for the best results. A highly managed zoysia lawn may need dethatching annually. Use a sharp mower blade for the best results.
  • Recommended mowing height: 1-2.5 inches

How to select the best grass type for your lawn 

Consider these questions before you purchase new grass:

  • Does your lawn have full sun, or does it include partial shade? 
    • Turf-type tall fescue, fine fescues, and zoysiagrass have some shade tolerance. Bermuda and centipede do best in full sun.
  • How much foot traffic does your lawn receive? 
    • If you love to host backyard barbecues and other events (pickup football, anyone?), bermuda is the high-traffic champ.
  • Is your area subject to drought? 
    • All of these grasses have moderate to high drought tolerance.
  • What level of maintenance are you willing to  do? 
    •  Remember, the right lawn in the right place is the best way to keep maintenance low. Overall, centipede is the lowest-maintenance grass on the list.

If having someone else mow the lawn is music to your ears, contact a Nashville lawn care professional today. They’ll mow, edge, blow, and beautify the landscaping so you can spend your time enjoying a lawn even an Opry star would croon over.

Main Photo Credit: Nicolas Henderson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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